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Washington • Sen. Bob Bennett on Saturday was one of only three Republicans to support moving forward on a measure that would allow a long pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who serve in the military or go to college.
But Bennett's support, and that of Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, wasn't enough to bring the measure to the 60-vote threshold needed to cut off debate. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or the Dream Act, failed on a 55-41 vote.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah's other Republican senator and a former sponsor of the act, skipped the vote to attend a grandson's college graduation but said in a statement that he would have voted against the bill, calling it a ploy by Democrats to gain favor with their base voters.
Bennett, who was denied a fourth bid for his seat and leaves office Jan. 4, backed the Dream Act in previous votes.
"It's regrettable the Dream Act didn't pass because I believe it's the right policy," Bennett said. "Hopefully the bill will have better success in the next Congress."
Bennett also voted Saturday during a rare weekend session against repealing the military's policy barring openly gay soldiers. He cited a study by the Pentagon that found repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would have little impact on the military's readiness; several Republicans, though, have said the report was flawed.
"I had hoped that the Pentagon study would have been more definitive, but it turned out muddled," Bennett said. "Without the complete backing of our military leaders during war time I am reluctant to force a repeal."
The Senate on Saturday afternoon gave final approval to jettison the Clinton-era policy by a 65-31 vote.
Hatch said November's election showed the American people wanted Congress to focus on the economy, not try to appeal to their liberal supporters.
"Rather than take part in this cynical exercise in political charades, I am honoring a longstanding commitment I made more than a year ago to attend my grandson's graduation in Missouri," Hatch said.
He noted that his absence didn't affect the outcome of the vote because he was opposed anyway.
Hatch also said he would have voted against repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."